Cook’s Notes: This was the checklist I used when we hosted Thanksgiving dinner in 2005. It helped keep our dinner preparations on track.
Sources: Leanne Ely; Better Homes & Gardens, entertaining.about.com, and Martha Stewart Living, November 2005. See cooks.com for an illustration on how to carve. See also busycooks for more information on planning the day and cooking turkey. Mark Bittman (The Minimalist) has a simple turkey recipe. Rick Rodgers excellent book, Thanksgiving 101, has a lot of great information and is the source of our chutney and gingerbread recipes.
One Week Ahead
Confirm your guest list
Make the shopping list
Check thawing time for frozen turkey (allow 1 pound per adult and a half pound per child)
Check serving pieces and utensils against your menu
Check your ingredients and menu
Clean out the fridge to make room
Three to Four Days Ahead
Start defrosting the frozen turkey in your refrigerator
Start making ice cubes and dump them in a freezer bag
Two Days Ahead
Clean and chop any vegetables for the stuffing/dressing and side dishes. Refrigerate.
Prepare the recipes that can be refrigerated for two days, such as spiced nuts, dips, soups, cranberry sauce, and cranberry chutney.
One Day Ahead: Wednesday
Clean vegetables, peel yams, chop, and refrigerate: celery, mushrooms, and yams
Make the herb butter
Make the side dishes that can be baked ahead of time
Prepare and refrigerate your stuffing and any salads
Prepare and bake pies
Make the gingerbread
Determine the time your turkey should go in the oven based on when you want dinner served, including the turkey’s “rest time”
Clean and truss your turkey, then refrigerate it
Set the table
Put the butter, salt, and pepper on the table
Remove turkey from the refrigerator for one to two hours
Make stock for the gravy
Cook the turkey
One hour before serving:
Turkey is cooked and resting comfortably. Wrap in foil to keep warm.
Cook the sweet potato wedges and stuffing. Keep warm after cooking.
Put cranberries in the serving dish with utensil and on the table or buffet
Heat bread or rolls as needed. Place them in a basket with a napkin to keep them warm.
Microwave food to quickly reheat if all the burners of the stove are occupied
Finish preparing appetizers, first courses, and/or side dishes
Set out refrigerated dishes
Make gravy and last-minute vegetables
Put gravy in the gravy boat
Put everything in its serving dish with appropriate utensils
Carve the turkey